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Cannabis in France

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Legislation: Marijuana (buds or hash bars) is NOT legal in France according to the law. Though it is quite tolerated. It\'s OK as long as you avoid being too obvious.

Marijuana and Hashish and any related action (buying, selling, growing, smoking), are a criminal offence imposing a penalty of two months to one year in jail in addition to a fine of 56 EUR to 1680 EUR.

Law Enforcement: Police patrols (in cars / walking) are scouting different areas and streets, but they are not agressive with tourists. Mostly like they will not say anything or look away. Avoid being to obvious, though.

Keep in mind that the police may arrest you for any soft drug related activity. They may also look away, but there are fair chances of getting into trouble. The courts are a bit more forgiving, and tend to release small amount private users with a warning.
of course the texts themselves are very hard but almost never apllied in Paris. Don't smoke in publics spaces or cars -your car can be stopped by traffic cops and that smell ...Hum, no good! - but don't freak out, french smoke a lot!

Just don't look obviously stoned or smoking and you'll be cool.

Our most recent report is: "Well if you got one or two Spliffs of hash there will be no problems if you keep it cool but if you got more than 4 or 5 grams thenn you will have a problem Just hide it Remenber they can't check what you got if they have not seen you smoking (but french cops are a bit rough so keep it cool again.....

For weed, law is a bit rougher but french cops are nicer (if you are found with hascich they will probably say you to smoke weed instead...

and another report is: "They don't hassle tourists for MJ unless you make it so that they must arrest you.
In the streets of paris you can smoke freely whilst walking ; don't hang with hoods on in dark places and beware of parks (small ones) where cycle police sometimes does rounds.Otherwise its really no stress ; they piss us off but it ain't nevada here...Go on the "Quai" near Notre Dames on friday and saturdays, you might score though i doubt it but if you come with beer or wine you'll meet cool young people (15-25) hanging out playing music or skateboarding and smoking J's...Plus you might trade the beer for a joint or two if the day's hunting didn't go well!"

and also: "The entire time that I have lived in Paris I have always smoked in the street without problems. This above all in the east, in the zone that goes from Belleville until Nation (Menilmontant, Gambetta, Charonne etc…)"

One of the best places to find good hash for good money is the Montmartre Area, at the foot of Sacre Coeur Basilica (N of city). Exactly at the entrance of the park, at the lower level, one will spot groups of 3 - 5 black-africans hanging around. `Officially` they manufacture hand-made cotton string bracelets as souvenir for tourists. Unofficially they may sell you bars of hash. Almost never weed. Hashish is very popular. They usually hide their stuff in different places in the park (bushes, under rocks, in trash bins, under benches, etc) and just go and get it accoring to the sum of money you are willing to offer them. At first call they may want to trick you. Give more money for a smaller bar. But don't hesitate to deal with them. You will sure get out with a quarter price off.

Really, really, really good hash in belleville, near faubourg du temple and boulervard belleville. You can find good hash for few euro. Weed is hardest to find but, if you are lucky, you can smoke Amsterdam top quality Orange or Ice... the price is really honest. Look in 10, 11, 20 arrondissement for positive vibes, quite people and potent pot.

The safest and most reliable bet for finding hash/cannabis is to ask a French friend or acquaintance.

Otherwise, try to find some young people and ask them . If not ,you can try les Halles or Le forum des Halles and ask to one of the dozens of young hanging around , Barbs can be an option but be careful with your money!


Cannabis in France
September 23, 2007

1. Introduction

S'il existait un gouvernement qui eût intérêt à corrompre ses gouvernés, il n'aurait qu'à encourager l'usage du cannabis (If there were a government had interest in corrupting its citizens, it only had to encourage the use of cannabis). This saying of the French poet Baudelaire (1821-1867) is sometimes cited in France as an answer to the question why cannabis use is punishable.

It is characteristic of the French drug policy to use this kind of frightening arguments to prevent cannabis use, as the French policy regarding drug use is first of all prohibitive. Both the official policy, the drug law of 1970, and its application -although not following strictly the law- are quite severe.

For a number of years there has been a discussion in France on the cannabis policy. This debate was initiated by the Minister of the Interior Charles Pasqua, known to be partisan of a repressive zero tolerance attitude towards cannabis use. The reason Pasqua lanced this debate was that in his eyes law was not applied everywhere as it should. In other words, law enforcement was not strict enough. The debate that followed soon focused on what is called the depenalization of cannabis use, which means that cannabis use should no longer be regarded as a criminal offense. This is different from legalisation of (the product) cannabis.

Since the debate on French drug policy started in 1994, three prestigious committees or organizations have, within a period of one year, declared themselves in favour of depenalizing cannabis use. The Government however, seems not to be willing tot follow these recommendations.

The current debate on French cannabis policy is still going on. Although it is unclear what the outcome of the drug debate will be, one can say there is a growing body of opinion that cannabis use should no longer be punishable.

This article gives an overview of the situation regarding cannabis in France. First, the subject, cannabis in France, will be clarified with facts and figures. Is it hash or marihuana, where does it come from and which countries does it transit to reach France? Furthermore, information will be given on the price and quality of cannabis in France.

Secondly, a few data on the prevalence of cannabis use will be presented. Although few sound figures on the prevalence of drug use exist in France, the figures presented here will give an impression. Thirdly, the French drug law and law enforcement will be considered. As we will see, there is not one French drug policy. It is probably more correct to speak of several drug policies, depending on how the policy in a jurisdiction is defined by the head prosecutor. Finally, the opinions and debates on the drug policy will be examined, both in the general public, public opinion, as in the professional circuit.

This article is a short version of an earlier, extended report on this subject. This article is based on the results of three months of research in France, during which information was gathered from literature, governments reports and press articles. In addiction several television recordings on the subject of drugs or cannabis were viewed. Furthermore interviews were held with people from the judicial world (public prosecutors, lawyers, examining judges), people from the police force, people from the medical world and social service sector, streetworkers, scholars and, of course, cannabis users.
2. The Origin of Cannabis in France

Cannabis in France means in most cases Moroccan hash. Approximately 80% of the cannabis available on the French market is hash from Morocco. One can also finds hash from other countries as Afghanistan and Pakistan and until a few years ago, Lebanon, but this is quite rare. Marihuana is even more rare. The marihuana one sometimes finds is from the Caribbean, Africa or the Netherlands. In the South of France there is some local marihuana production. This is generally small scale production destined for small networks of consumers.

According to figures of the OCRTIS,[1] which collects data from the national police and customs, 58,014 kilos of cannabis were intercepted in 1994. 55,890 kilos (96%) of this amount was hash. In 1993 the total amount of intercepted cannabis was 45,883 kilos, of which 44,840 kilos (98%) was hash.

Hash interceptions of the French police, gendarmerie and customs have increased remarkably the last years. In five years, from 1990 to 1994, they increased from 21,289 kilo's to 55,890 kilos. As said earlier, most of the hash in France, approximately 80%, is from Morocco. Unlike what many people think in France, and even sometimes in the Netherlands, this hash does not transit the Netherlands but comes directly, in most cases through Spain, into France. Although the French customs stop more people for possession of cannabis on the northern border (people coming from the Netherlands), the big cannabis seizures take place on the southern, Spanish border. Cars are here the most important way of transport.[2]

During the last five years only between 1% and 2% of the intercepted hash in France had its origin in the Netherlands (see Table 1).


The fact that most of the hash in France does not transit the Netherlands, but comes directly from Morocco, in most times through Spain, is in contrast with what is generally thought. How then, does the moroccan hash come into France?

Cannabis trafficking in France is generally on a small scale and consist of small networks. In many cases cars are used for crossing the border. Many of these networks are centred in the "banlieues", the working/lower class suburbs characterized by cheap high rise apartments, unemployment and a high proportion of immigrants, especially people from North Africa (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia). Drug trafficking is sometimes seen in these areas as a alternative or a way out of the miserable living conditions without prospect and is sometimes even stimulated by parents. This makes some people speak of the existence of an underground drug economy in the French suburbs.[3]
3. The Prevalence of Cannabis Use in France

Unfortunately very few sound epidemiologic studies have been done in France on the prevalence of cannabis use. Most information one finds on this subject is based on surveys. The limitation of most of these surveys is that samples are too small to draw any sound conclusions. The disparities one sees between the findings of different surveys demonstrates this. The problem with other, sound surveys is that they don't take into account the frequency of use. Furthermore, some surveys do not make the distinction between different kinds of drugs, which makes the results not very useful. A few data that provide us some information will be presented here.

According to a survey done in 1992 by the market research organisation SOFRES, 4,7 million French people from the age group 12-44 have at one time smoked cannabis. This represents a life time prevalence of 19%.[4] According to a number of studies that have been done in 1990, 1991 and 1992 by the French Committee of Health Education, 30% to 40% of the people in the age groups 18-24 and 25-34 have at one time used cannabis.[5]

Another study, a survey carried by the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, studied the prevalence of cannabis at secondary schools. The representative sample of this survey consisted of 12.466 high school students, making these data much more sound than the previous ones. If you look at the age group 11-19, 12% has at one time used cannabis. The oldest of this age group, those who are 18 or 19, 29% has at one time smoked cannabis.[6] Of those who have ever used cannabis, 40% belongs to the regular users, which is defined by the researchers as at least ten times.

The figures presented here are to give an idea about the prevalence of cannabis use in France. If you compare these and other French data of cannabis prevalence to European data, then cannabis prevalence in France does not seem to be exceptionally high or low, but again, most figures are not very sound.

There also exist some sociological, qualitative studies that have been carried out in disadvantaged areas of the banlieues, the suburbs. According to the estimations of some reports, in some neighbourhoods 50% to 80% of the young people has smoked cannabis.[7]

Looking at the big disparities that exist between different studies concerning cannabis use, one cannot make any sound estimation. Therefore, one can only cautiously conclude that cannabis use is certainly not a rare phenomenon in France. Especially among young people use seems to be quite widespread. My personal impression, from what I have seen over the years in the Netherlands and France, is that more people use in France than in the Netherlands. More striking is the extend of cannabis use in France, which sometimes reminds Dutch people of Scandinavians drinking alcohol.
4. French Law on Cannabis Use and Its Application

The French drug law is called the law of 31 December 1970. This law forbids all drug use, no matter the circumstances and no distinction is being made between different kinds of drugs. Before 1970 drug use in private was not liable to penalty. The reason law become more severe should be regarded in view of the protest movements of 1968.

On March 1st 1994 a new law came into force, the new penal code (Nouveau Code Pénal). Since this date all statutory provisions concerning drugs, with the exception of drug use, have been transferred to this code.

This means law makes a difference between drug possession and drug use. Possession of cannabis falls under the new penal code, whilst use still falls under the law of 1970.

The penalties for cannabis use are a sentence from two months up to a year and/or a fine from 500 Francs to 25,000 Francs. The more serious criminal offences like possession, cultivation or trafficking of drug (cannabis) can be punished much more severely, up to ten years sentence (and from 500.000 to 50 million French Francs).

During the seventies and eighties the Ministry of Justice has issued several directives concerning prosecution of drug users. Some of these directives called for not prosecuting cannabis users. However, directives are in France always subordinate to law, therefore it is the head prosecutor who in practice defines the actual law enforcement policy in a district. Given the fact there are 180 (district) courts in France, one could say there are 180 different drug policies. Therefore, the real drug policy can change from one place to the other, of which are many examples. Where cannabis use or the possession of small amounts of cannabis (for personal use) is not prosecuted in some places, one is prosecuted in other places. In big cities one sees a growing tolerance from the side of the police, especially in the lower class areas like the banlieues. In the rural areas cannabis use is in many cases prosecuted.

As said before, buying selling and drug possession fall under another code and are being considered more serious criminal offences that are in most cases prosecuted.

One final remark should be made here. Cannabis use may not always be prosecuted, this does mean use is tolerated. Someone using cannabis or found to be carrying a small quantity of cannabis, for example during a police identity control, is still taking to the police station. While he may not be prosecuted, there is a large chance he will be taken into custody and will have to spend the night in prison, consequently most likely making him late for school or work the next day.
5. The Debate on the Cannabis Policy

For a number of years, there has been a discussion in France on cannabis policy. This debate is centred on the question of depenalization, which denotes that use should no longer being considered a criminal offence.

Since this debate started in 1994, three prestigious committees or organizations have, within a period of one year, declared themselves in favour of depenalizing cannabis use: the association of psychiatrists engaged in addiction (Association des Intervenants en Toxicomanie), the National Consultative Ethical Committee (Comité Consultatif National d'Ethique) and the Commission Henrion. The latter being the official State Commission charged with reconsidering the French drug policy. After having worked on the subject for almost a year, the commission Henrion published its report in the spring of 1995. The commission not only declared itself being in favour of the depenalization of cannabis use, but after a trial period of two years, the commission calls for the regulation of the retail of cannabis, which implies in fact legalization.

The Government however, seems not to be willing tot follow these recommendations. The day the Henrion Commission published its report, the then prime minister Edouard Balladur declared on national television French drug policy would not be changed. Since Jacques Chirac has been elected as president of France in the summer of 1995, the possibility of a change in French drug law is even more unlikely.

One of the possible reasons of the tough stance of French politicians regarding cannabis, is that Gabriel Nahas has been very influential in this field. If there is one country were cannabis policy has been under the influence of Nahas, it is probably France. In fact, Nahas has been the (unofficial) consultant of Jacques Chirac during Chirac's years as mayor of Paris and during his two-years period as prime minister from 1986-1988.

In April 1992 the city of Paris and the National Academy of Medicine organized a congress on illegal drugs. Gabriel Nahas was member of the scientific committee of this congress. Jacques Chirac, at the time mayor of Paris, spoke the opening words of the congress, which one can read in the congress proceedings. Among other things Chirac stated:
'The conclusions of this prestigious meeting are clear. The toxicity of cannabis has now been well established, especially for the central nervous system. Consumption leads inevitably a large number of users to heroine or cocaine. Consequently the distinction between the so-called soft and hard drugs and any idea of liberalizing of this substance should therefore be rejected.'[8]
6. Conclusion

This article gives on overview of the situation regarding cannabis in France. The following subjects have successively been discussed: the origin of cannabis that is intercepted in France, the prevalence of use, French drug law and its application, and the current debate on the cannabis policy.

For a Dutch person familiar with a liberal drug policy it is sometimes a bit amazing to see a prohibitive drug policy like in France, which although its repressive nature, does not seem to be able to limit use. The considerable difference that exists between Dutch and French drug policy is causing problems between the two countries. The French are criticizing the Dutch liberal drug policy and are blaming the Dutch for the negative spill-over effects of their policy. One of the arguments one hears often is that big quantities of cannabis in France find their origin in the Netherlands. However, even according to the official data of police and customs, there a no evidence that suggests this. As shown, during the last five years it was between 1% and 2% of the intercepted hash in France had its origin in the Netherlands.

The French law on drug use is severe: every use, no matter the circumstances, is liable to penalty. The maximum penalties for cannabis use are a sentence from two months up to a year and/or a fine from 500 Francs to 25,000 Francs. However, law is rarely applied in this way. In practice the application of the law for a large degree depends on how the head prosecutor has defined the policy in his district. In some urban areas there is growing tolerance concerning cannabis use, whilst in the rural areas use is sometimes still prosecuted.

For a number of years, there has be a debate on cannabis policy. Several committees and organizations have declared themselves being in favour of depenalizing cannabis use, the most important one being the Henrion Commission, the official state commission charged with reconsidering French drug policy. The government however, does not seem to be willing to take a more liberal stance towards cannabis use. Instead, the government has proposed increased penalties for drug law violations.

Boekhout van Solinge, Tim (1995), Cannabis in France. Presentation held at the conference 'Cannabis Policy, Criminal Law and Human Rights', Bremen University, Germany, October 6, 1995. In: Böllinger, Lorenz (Ed.) (1997), Cannabis Science. From Prohibition to Human Right. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang GmbH.
© Copyright 1995, 1997 Tim Boekhout van Solinge

Office Centrale pour la Répression du Trafic Illicite des Stupéfiants (OCRTIS), part of the Ministry of the Interior.
See: `La douane et la lutte contre la drogue et la toxicomanie',Les notes bleues de Bercy, June 1-15, 1995, pp. 64-65 (Ministry of Finance).
See: Conseil National des Villes & Maison des Sciences de l'Homme (1994), L'économie souterraine de la drogue, La Plaine-Saint-Denis: Conseil National des Villes. This study was carried out under responsability of Michel Schiray of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS).
SOFRES (1992), La consommation de haschich parmi les 12-44 ans.
Comité Français d'Education pour la Santé (1992), Une note de synthèse. This article gives an overview of prevalence data of surveys that have been carried out in 1990, 1991 and 1992.
Marie Choquet & Sylvie Ledoux (1994), Adolescents. Enquête nationale, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM).
See: Conseil National des Villes & Maison des Sciences de l'Homme (1994), op.cit.
See the congress proceedings: Mairie de Paris & Académie Nationale de Médecine, Textes et documents. Colloque scientifique international: les drogues illicites. Paris le 8 & 9 avril 1992.


Chris Fowlie's Tour 2002: France

France is often thought of as one of the most prohibitionist countries in Europe, but under recent governments they have in fact been quietly moving toward a more tolerant policy over the past few years. That said, it’s still a real come-down after the Netherlands and about the only highlight for a pot smoking tour of Paris - aside from the opportunity to smoke a joint at Jim Morrison’s grave or up the Eiffel tower, as I did - is the Musee du Fumeur or Smoking Museum. They have a great selection of books (if you can read French) and several live plants in a grow room.

What got me excited however, was a new French cannabis-orientated CD compilation called Cannabissimo. The beginning of track 7 features a reefer madness quote sampled from John Banks of all people, recorded at the ALCP’s Smoke-out the Beehive parliamentary session that kicked off our 1996 campaign. It was such a bizarre synchronicity I had to buy the CD.


Is marijuana legal in France?

Surely the most repressive country in the whole Western Europe regarding simple use and consumption of cannabis-based products. The prohibition is the law even if the Justice ministry has passed requirements to prosecutors not to jail someone for tiny amounts considered as for personal use.

But in practise, the French law system is so harsh that it has even be condemned recently in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The reason is as follow: the use of illicit drugs (of any nature) is a minor offense, up to 1 year in jail -- "minor", a question of speaking... --, while possession and trafic can lead to 20 years sentences, even life sentences -- according to the new Penal Code of 1994. But it happens that someone that is caught with tiny amounts of cannabis can easily prosecuted under the term of "detention of illicit drug with intent to trafficking by way of networked crime". And the Penal Code says that under this charge the police can keep you in custody for 4 days. Usually for a common crime even serious one the custody is fixed at 1 or 2 days. So the police have the power to impose this 4 days of custody (without the presence of their lawyer) for the possession of cannabis for personal use. date unknown source

Mr Pot

New Member
Marijuana and Hashish and any related action (buying, selling, growing, smoking), are a criminal offence imposing a penalty of two months to one year in jail in addition to a fine of 56 EUR to 1680 EUR.

Are you sure about the penalty for sell and grow weed it's of two months to one year in jail ?

I think 1 year for it's very good, here in Portugal it's legal to smoke weed although the weed is illegal, and for selling it we go to jail 4 to 12 years.

Mr Pot

New Member
OK, you're wrong. I knew that the penaltys in france are very heavy.

"Le simple usage n'est normalement puni que d'une peine maximale d'un an d’emprisonnement ou d'une amende pouvant aller jusqu'à 3 750 euros "

Smoking : maximum penalty of 1 year in jail.

"Le trafic, c'est-à-dire la détention, le transport, l'offre, la cession ou l'acquisition de stupéfiant, est puni d'une peine de prison d'une durée maximale de dix ans ou d'une amende pouvant atteindre 75 000 euros"

Buying & selling : maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.

"Quant à la production, même pour usage personnel, celle-ci est passible d'une peine maximale de vingt ans de réclusion criminelle ou d'une amende pouvant aller jusqu'à 75 000 euros "

Growing: maximum penalty of 20 years in jail.


New Member
Help!! I live in France, am British and have Multiple Sclerosis. Is there any toleration of Medical Marijuana??

Aider moi svp! J'habite en la France, je suis englais et j'ai la maladie scleros en plaque. Il ya la possibilite a utilise marijuana medicale ici?


New Member
Hi everyone,

I live in France.

Even though it is true that you risk a lot if you do drug trafficking, you really don't risk much if you grow cannabis for your personal usage. You risk even less if you grow it for medicinal purposes, so long as you can prove you have a disease that, either does not respond to traditional drugs, or that you somehow use cannabis as biotherapy (which is my case and I got my speech down, just in case).

Now, the French penal code is ambiguous. Here is why.

It is indeed up to the cops and the judge to establish the policy regarding cannabis. The cops in charge of arresting people will tolerate use in some part of the city and not at all in other parts.

If somehow you are to see the wonderfully nice judge, that's pretty much the same. Provided you really grew cannabis for yourself, you will risk, at the most, a little fine, as well as seeing you equipment seized. Usually, that's not the case, since you can't really get caught while growing indoors.

If the cops see a little cluster of cannabis in your garden, they will probably simply ask you to get rid of it, that's the end of it.

It is estimated that 200 000 people in France are growing cannabis.


New Member
Im in france, growing it, loving it. Although had friends growing it as well, and indeed the police just passed by and took the plants, gave a warning and au revoir.


New Member
I've just moved into Valbonne! I don't speak French, but, I'd like to know if weed/hash is easily available before I even think of embarrassing myself.


New Member
Down south is easier to find hash then in the north, but in north you usually get better buds If im right Valbonne is near mediterranean sea!, so you will most likely find morrocan hash, and weed is good when in the right season, september/october. (You can find whole year round if you know a local grower or someone who brings from amsterdam).
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